Happiness and mindfulness: How to train yourself to be happy

Interesting post on mindfulness. You may also want to check out Sharon Begley’s “Train Your Mind, Change Your Brain”, an excellent read which links new scientific insights on brain plasticity to Buddhist ideas on the transformative power of mind. Could the mind change the brain?
For now, enjoy the post below, as well as the weekend!

P.S.: New blog post coming up soon by the way, so please don’t hesitate having a look every now & then. Your thoughts & feedback matter!

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dying beautifully

Is our simulated reality powerful enough to destroy actual reality? Some thoughts on the art & death of dying. Powerful stuff, thanks for sharing with the community.

Gukira

You will be told the death was staged: humans do not die that way, blood does not move like that, limbs do not separate from bodies so easily, headless bodies appear only in fantastic stories, children do not die, explosives do not sound like that, sand does not interact that way with blood, a dead hand cannot possibly pose that way, real tears are never so eloquent, real men don’t cry, and only fools die when the sun is shining.

You will be told that war is glorious hues of color pinned on a hero’s chest, newly-composed marches that energize tramping feet, a light display more elegant than fireworks and more sublime than shooting stars, a muse that inspires empire-building epics, an endless source of scripts for global blockbusters, a necessary economy boost, a book that is unputdownable.

Walking into an art exhibition, you will be told about the new…

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This Is the Equation for Happiness

TIME

Researchers at University College London were able to create an equation that could accurately predict the happiness of over 18,000 people, according to a new study.

First, the researchers had 26 participants complete decision-making tasks where their choices either led to monetary gains or losses. The researchers used fMRI imaging to measure their brain activity, and asked them repeatedly “how happy are you now?” Based on the data the researchers gathered from the first experiment, they created a model that linked self-reported happiness to recent rewards and expectations.

Here’s what the equation looks like:

Robb Rutledge, UCL

Then, in their study published Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the researchers tested their model by having 18,420 people play a smartphone game called The Great Brain Experiment for points. They found that their equation was also accurate at predicting the gamers’ happiness.

The researchers were not surprised…

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Mental Stealth

What is mental health?

What does it mean to be mentally (in-)sane?

Why are some people depressed, anxious, paranoid, hyperactive, or delirious?

Why do we speak of disordered moods, emotions, thoughts?

And really, what do any of those words even mean, if they are to mean anything at all?

To begin, I think most of us can agree on one thing: when we wish someone good health, we rarely ever mean anything along the lines of “hey, I’m happy you weren’t diagnosed with bipolar disorder recently!”. And yet, in the US alone, 3.9 % of the entire population currently have a lifetime diagnosis of bipolar disorder. If this doesn’t sound like much, let’s make this whole thing just a tat more accessible and put it in to clear numbers. 3.9 % of the US population equals a number of approximately 12,242,100 people. In short this means that to date, in the US alone, more people suffer from this disorder than make up the entire population of Belgium, Portugal, Mali, Greece, or Cuba – just to name a few. Out of these 12 million cases, about 80 % are classified as severe. And, in case of bipolar disorder, severe refers to the terrifying reality that some people cycle from feeling excruciatingly happy to horridly depressed so severely, that 20 % of these cases alone, end in suicide.

That’s about 2,448,420 deaths. If you ask me, you’d be bloody lucky not to be diagnosed with this condition any time soon. Regardless, mental (in)sanity still isn’t a primary concern to most of us, unless we are somehow directly affected by it. And although I don’t blame anyone, it doesn’t help matters along much that the very existence of mental disorders is still so heavily disputed. We don’t talk about it, and we don’t like hearing about it. After all, I may perhaps be able to spot when someone’s being obviously delusional and panicky, but I can’t really see anxiety, or sadness. Whatever I do, I’m just not capable of knowing whether someone’s hyperactive, or just had bad parents who didn’t care much for teaching him the basic rules of human conduct. For many, mental health conditions of any kind, are still baseless facts, inventions of the elite, cruel mechanisms of control. They are at best myths, and at worst tools for conditioning human behavior; they are sometimes excuses, other times so debilitating we’d better shun the poor bastards altogether.

Has science provided us with enough proof that the brain can be in a disordered mental state? Are there any biomarkers that reliably point to the presence of such disorders? Or are they inventions, laughable matters, and best discarded as being “a thing” for good? Those are very difficult questions to answer, and I’m not here pretending to have engineered the grand solution. All I can say for sure, is that there’s simply too much we still don’t understand about the “matters of the mind”. Real or not, something is happening to millions of people worldwide that we simply can’t explain. Worse yet, we often refuse to even acknowledge it. And this doesn’t only imply mental “disorders”, but a vast array of mental “phenomena”. Take the placebo effect, for instance. How is it possible that a simple sugar pill can be almost as (in-)effective as FDA-approved anti-depressant medication? Can the brain, simply by believing it, cure itself? And if so, why do millions of people kicking and screaming to stay alive, still die because of their afflictions?

It is with great interest and sincere passion that I will try to talk about (at least) some of these things, because I believe we need to talk about them. Not in a high brow fashion, not with the entire consortium of difficult medical terms at arm’s length, without degrees and expectations. Far away from the interests and investments of big pharma. We need to be willing to learn new information and ways to think about all kinds of mental phenomena, and be allowed to challenge the status quo whenever that’s appropriate. Let’s hope that one day we’ll view the mind as a little bit more than just an empty vessel holding a few bits & bytes of information. And, that we stop trying to discard mental phenomena simply because we don’t yet get how they work. Especially when there’s millions of people out there, trying every single day, to bring us a little bit closer to the facts. Because they know that to understand something, you may need to accept that you just really don’t. And that’s okay, – it’s an incentive. And it’s a cause I’d like to join, even if only in the smallest of ways.

Associated links:

Bipolar Disorder Among Adults – NIMH Statistics

List Of Countries By Population – Wikipedia

Signs And Symptoms – Bipolar Disorder – Helpguide

Suicide in Bipolar Disorder: Risks and management.